The date and timing for the 1990 coup attempt, which took place on July 27, were “carefully chosen” by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen which was at the time “encouraged” by anti-government sentiment coming off the union platforms, Sir David Simmons QC stated in the report into the events of 1990.
The document can be read online on the Parliament website. The 1,324-page report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup was presented on Thursday to President Anthony Carmona by Simmons, who served as chairman to the Commission.
The report was laid as a Paper in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar the following day. The Prime Minister then sought and obtained leave of the House to have the report printed as a House Paper. The Commission of Enquiry began its task on January 24, 2011.
In Section 2 of the report which deals with “The Nature, Extent and Impact of The Attempted Coup”, the Commission states: “In this Part, we make findings or draw conclusions from the evidence adduced before us. Much of the evidence was not disputed. We have chosen to let the evidence of various witnesses speak for itself. However, the matters discussed in this Part represent our interpretation and analysis of problematic parts of the evidence. The following are our findings and/or conclusions” and makes the following observations:
The date and timing for the attempted coup were carefully chosen. As members of the Summit of People’s Organisations (SOPO), the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen (JAM) were aware that SOPO were planning an informal referendum for July 27.
They were also aware that the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) had written to the Prime Minister giving him until July 27 to disband the structural adjustment programme and the austerity measures or else they would escalate their protests on July 31. Imam Abu Bakr, encouraged by the rhetoric emanating from the public platforms of SOPO, conspired with Bilaal Abdullah and others to attempt a coup d’état on July 27, 1990.
* 1.51. We are not persuaded by the evidence of Messrs Jamaal Shabazz, Kala Akii-Bua and Lorris Ballack that they knew of the decision to attempt an overthrow of the Government only shortly before July 27, 1990. Their evidence is at variance with evidence before us that, for some time prior to July 27, members of the JAM, posing as vendors, had carried out acts of reconnaissance at the NBS building, at TTT and the Red House. Shabazz himself said that he had carried out a reconnoitre of Radio Trinidad some considerable time before July 27, 1990.
* 1.52. We find that there were four components of the strategy to overthrow the Government, viz.
(i) to destroy Police Headquarters, throw the Police Service into confusion and create a vacuum in security, thereby allowing armed supporters other than the 114 insurgents, an opportunity to create further confusion in the country;
(ii) to invade the Red House and hold the Prime Minister and other members of Parliament hostage with a view to displacing the NAR as the Government of the Republic;
(iii) to invade, take control of Radio Trinidad and use it for propaganda purposes; and
(iv) to invade, take control of TTT and use it for similar purposes.
*1.53. Fire-bombing the NBS building was considered in the original planning of the JAM but, on July 27, was not properly executed.
*1.54. The date and timing for the attempted coup were carefully chosen. As members of the Summit of People’s Organisations (SOPO), the JAM were aware that SOPO were planning an informal referendum for July 27. They were also aware that the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) had written to the Prime Minister giving him until 27 July to disband the structural adjustment programme and the austerity measures or else they would escalate their protests on 31 July. Imam Abu Bakr, encouraged by the rhetoric emanating from the public platforms of SOPO, conspired with Bilaal Abdullah and others to attempt a coup d’état on 27 July, 1990. We have come to these conclusions on the basis of evidence which we refer to in Chapter 3.
1.55. Imam Abu Bakr, a former policeman, had important contacts with existing members of the Police Service and the Defence Force. He knew that, on 27 July, 1990, many Police Officers and soldiers would have been off-duty and/or attending the football games at the Stadium. He calculated that the Protective Services would have been depleted and sought to take advantage of the security vacuum. He hoped that the surprise element in his attacks would have caught the Protective Services off guard, as it did, and it would have been relatively easy to execute the four-pronged strategy of simultaneous attacks in different and disparate locations.
The lengthy chapter later addresses a common gossip that followed the events of 1990, with regard to the absence in Parliamentarians from the Red House that day and rumours that some politicians may have had knowledge of the attempted coup:
The Commission stated:
1.85. We received no credible evidence that the absences from Parliament of Messrs. Nizam Mohammed (Speaker), Mr Patrick Manning (Leader of the Opposition), Mr Basdeo Panday (Leader of the UNC) at the time of the attempted coup, were the result of prior knowledge of its likelihood. Such evidence as was adduced was of the level of conjecture or hunch. But our duty is to be satisfied on a high standard of proof as to any disputed evidence, particularly having regard to allegations of such a nature.
Applying that standard, we are bound to say that the evidence before us is not of such a nature as to enable us to conclude that it was more probable than not that those persons were forewarned as to what would happen. Imam Abu Bakr has made suggestions in other places that Mr Manning and Mr Panday had prior knowledge of the insurrection. We have wholly ignored such effusions of Imam Abu Bakr. He had ample opportunity to appear before the Commission, give evidence on oath and subject himself to cross-examination. He prevaricated and declined to testify.